Since, by general agreement, we reserve the term “artificial intelligence” for non-human entities like computers, Daniel Greenfield was obliged to use the term “manufactured intelligence” to refer to a peculiar intellectual phenomenon.
I would call it reverse intelligence, though I am not certain that that is very much better.
Practitioners of “manufactured intelligence” do not spend their time trying to educate or inform. They excel at making their readers feel like they belong to a class of intellectually superior beings.
Writing on his Sultan Knish blog, Greenfield explains:
Today as never before there is an industry dedicated, not to educating people, but to making them feel smart. From paradigm shifting TED talks to paradigm to books by thought leaders and documentaries by change agents that transform your view of the world, manufactured intelligence has become its own culture.
Manufactured intelligence is the smarmy quality that oozes out of a New York Times column by Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Frank Bruni and the rest of the gang who tell you nothing meaningful while dazzling you with references to international locations, political events and pop culture, tying together absurdities into one synergistic web of nonsense that feels meaningful.
Take Barack Obama. He has mastered the art of making other people feel smart… in part because they are smarter than he is, in part because they feel that supporting him makes them part of a group of superior minds:
… we all know that Obama is a genius. We have been told by Valerie Jarrett, by his media lapdogs and even by the great man himself that he is just too smart to do his job. And it's reasonable that a genius would be bored by the tedious tasks involved in running the most powerful nation on earth.
But what is "smart" anyway? What makes Obama a genius? It's not his IQ. It's probably not his grades or we would have seen them already. It's that like so many of the thought leaders and TED talkers, he makes his supporters feel smart. The perception of intelligence is really a reflection.
Everyone who encountered him thought that he was smart because he made them feel smart. And that is the supreme duty of the modern liberal intellectual, not to be smart, but to make others feel smart. Genuine intelligence is threatening. Manufactured intelligence is soothing. And those intellectually superior progressives who need to believe that Obama is smart in order to believe that they are smart cannot stop believing in his brains without confronting the illusion of their own intelligence.
Obviously, you cannot make other people feel that they are smart if you are really smart. To practice reverse intelligence you need to be good at acting a role, that is, performing.
It’s a sociological phenomenon. Individuals who consider themselves members of an elite group exchange passwords and hand signals. These have no meaning beyond their ability to demonstrate that one belongs. In some circles you gain membership by tossing around nonsense words like heteronormative.
It constantly invents new terms to provide the enlightened elites with a secret language of Newspeak buzzwords that mean less than the words they are replacing. The buzzwords, Thought Leader and Change Agent, quickly take on cultist overtones and become ways of describing how the group's leaders would like to use power, than anything about the world that they describe.
It’s all about the difference between thinking and feeling. If you are dealing with actual intelligence, you might have to think about what the person is saying. You might have to accept that he knows more than you do. You might even have to put in some effort, that is, some work.
If you are listening to someone who is practicing reverse intelligence, you do not have to think at all. You need to learn how to drop the right words and phrases into a conversation; you need to have the right opinions; you need to feel the right feelings; but that is all. Secure in your feeling that you belong to a superior class of individuals, you can bask in the glow.
It has more to do with enhanced self-esteem than with actually learning anything. Generations of American students have been taught that they are great, no matter what their actual achievements. Accustomed to receiving unearned praise they have lost the habit of thinking and working. They need constant affirmation of their brilliance, because they have always used their feelings as a way to avoid work. Besides, the last thing they want to hear is the truth about how smart they aren’t.
But, as Bob Dylan once famously wrote: “How does it feel?”
It is its assumption of intelligence through compassionate self-involvement, progressive insights derived from an obsession with the self and the sanctification of Third World references, real or imaginary, invoking the spiritual power of the Other, the totem of alien magic, to transcend the rational and the pragmatic. It is upscale Oprah; egotism masquerading as enlightenment, condescension as compassion and soothing quotes as religion.
Those who traffic in reverse intelligence are not interested in doing anything. They are not worrying about solving problems. They are, Greenfield says, more interested in justifying their own positions of power and authority. Believing themselves to possess a superior intelligence,belonging to what Plato called the Guardians, they arrogate to themselves the right to make decisions for the rest of us.
Think of Obamacare.